The Biden administration should focus more on investigating and remedying billions of dollars worth of COVID-19 aid fraud before pumping out more of such spending, Bloomberg’s editorial board wrote on Monday.
In an op-ed published Monday morning, Bloomberg pointed out that the Secret Service estimates that $100 billion in COVID-19 relief funds may have been doled out in fraudulent claims, corrupt deals, or to dead people. The article suggests that Secret Service estimates may be too conservative, however. The editors write:
Even that may be understating the problem. As little as 23% of the $800 billion doled out by the Paycheck Protection Program actually found its way into workers’ pockets. A Department of Labor study estimated that more than $87 billion in emergency unemployment benefits were improperly paid. The Small Business Administration has (among other blunders) disbursed more than $6.2 billion to loan applicants it now suspects of identity theft. Somehow, the Internal Revenue Service managed to issue 2.2 million stimulus checks — worth about $3.5 billion — to dead people.
Only in government could such calamitous neglect be considered business as usual.
So far, the federal government has approved roughly $6 trillion in COVID-19 funds. In providing the funds to Americans in need, however, the government bungled operations with a lack of oversight and communications, leading to “the largest oversight challenge” of President Joe Biden’s administration, Biden’s chief coordinator for COVID-19 spending said last month.
“There is no question that the immense fraud that took place at the crush of the pandemic in 2020, particularly in small-business loans and unemployment insurance, is the largest oversight challenge the Biden administration inherited,” White House senior advisor Gene Sperling said.
The Biden administration continues to push for billions more in COVID-19 aid roughly two years lockdowns began over COVID-19 in the United States. Biden’s agenda is stalled in Congress, however, as fellow Democrats push back against additional COVID-19 spending. As Punchbowl News reported:
The White House hasn’t done anything to sell this legislation to Congress. This is a complaint you’ll hear from House and Senate Democrats. After weeks of rumors that the Biden administration would seek as much as $30 billion to $35 billion in new Covid funding, the White House sent a $22.5 billion request to Congress just before the omnibus package was released. This quickly was pared by one-third to $15 billion. And then it was cut entirely from the package following the uproar from Democratic lawmakers – spurred on by some Democratic governors.
Bloomberg argued that the Biden administration should focus instead on shoring up the government’s aid programs and appropriating billions in misspent funds before seeking additional COVID-19 aid. The editors suggested improving communication across the government and upgrading aged technology.
“Fixing such deficiencies must be a priority,” the editors wrote. “To his credit, Biden has announced several efforts to combat pandemic fraud. But more focus and investment will be required to stop the cancer of corruption for good.”